Dead in the water


      • failure or inability to make progress
        To describe a situation or project that has come to a halt or is not moving forward due to various reasons, such as lack of resources, support or motivation

      • not functioning or working
        To describe something that is not operating or functioning as intended, often due to technical or mechanical issues

      • hopeless or without any chance of success
        To describe a situation or endeavor that is likely to fail or be unsuccessful, with little or no possibility of improvement or recovery

    Examples of Dead in the water

    • The new business venture was dead in the water as there was a lack of funding and no progress had been made for months.

      The figurative meaning of 'dead in the water' is used to describe an unsuccessful project or situation that has come to a halt and is no longer making any progress. In the example given, the new business venture has been halted because there is no funding and no progress has been made, making it as good as dead, just like a ship that is unable to move in still water.

    • After the CEO's sudden departure, the company was left floundering and dead in the water, unsure of which direction to take.

      The idiom 'dead in the water' is used to depict a situation where there is no clear direction or path forward for a company that has lost its leader. This example highlights the confusion and uncertainty the company is experiencing after the sudden departure of its CEO.

    • The project was dead in the water after the initial proposal was rejected by the client.

      In this example, the literal meaning of 'dead in the water' is not applicable, but the figurative meaning is used to describe a proposal that has been rejected, resulting in the project being unable to move forward.

    • The movie project was dead in the water after the lead actor dropped out due to a scheduling conflict.

      This example uses the idiom 'dead in the water' to depict a project that has been halted due to the absence of a key player. The dropped-out lead actor has halted the project, leaving it stranded and motionless, just like a ship that is unable to move in still water.

    • The bank's investment strategy for the last year seems to be dead in the water. They've been unable to generate any profits and the stock prices have been steadily declining.

      This idiom is used to describe a situation that is completely static and offers no hope of success. Just as a boat that has run out of fuel and is no longer able to move, this investment strategy is simply drifting and unable to make any progress.

    • The negotiations were dead in the water as soon as the other side refused to compromise. The lack of any movement or progress left both parties feeling frustrated and resigned to the impasse.

      This idiom is often used to describe situations where there has been a sudden and complete breakdown in communication or cooperation between parties. Just as a boat that is no longer able to propel itself through the water, the negotiations have come to a complete halt and are unable to make any headway.

    • Despite the recent infusion of funding, the company's turnaround plan seems to be dead in the water. The market conditions are too unpredictable, and the competition is too strong to allow the company to make any significant progress.

      Yet another usage of this idiom in a business context. It highlights the difficulties that enterprises can face in trying to implement new strategies or initiatives in the face of challenging market conditions. Just as a boat that is unable to overcome the forces of the current, a company's efforts to turn things around may prove fruitless and leave them stranded.

    • The political campaign of the challenger has been dead in the water ever since the incumbent launched a scathing attack on his policies. The negative coverage and lack of support has left the challenger floundering, unable to gain any traction in the race.

      This example illustrates how this idiom can be used to describe the difficulties that challengers or underdogs can face in political campaigns. Just as a boat that is unable to overcome the obstacles in its path, a political candidate may find it impossible to make any headway in the face of opposition, negative press, or a lack of support from the public.


    The idiom "dead in the water" has several meanings, all related to failure or lack of progress. It can be used to describe a project or task that has come to a halt, is not functioning properly, or has no chance of success. In all cases, the idiom conveys a sense of hopelessness and finality, as if the situation or endeavor is beyond saving or fixing.

    Origin of "Dead in the water"

    The origin of this idiom can be traced back to nautical terminology. In the past, ships would sometimes become stranded in the ocean, with no wind to power their sails. This would render them unable to move and they would be literally "dead in the water." This phrase was then used figuratively to describe any situation or project that was unable to move forward.

    Another possible origin of this idiom is from the world of horse racing. When a horse is unable to finish a race, it is often said to be "dead in the water." This is because horses often slow down or stop when they reach water, making it impossible for them to cross. This meaning of the idiom is similar to the nautical one, as it also conveys a sense of being stuck and unable to progress.

    In modern usage, the idiom "dead in the water" is often used in business or political contexts to describe a project or plan that has failed or is not making any progress. It is also commonly used in everyday conversations to describe any situation that has come to a standstill or is not working as intended.